Liberal radio comic specializes in Maronated humor

Marc Maron may not be the most familiar face in standup comedy. But he’s rapidly becoming a familiar voice.

Maron co-hosts “Morning Sedition” on the liberal Air America radio network. That means he commands a growing national audience for his left-of-center politics.

Local audiences can catch Maron’s equally left-of-center comedy when he appears at the Marin Osher Jewish Community Center on Saturday, Oct. 22 with a standup comedy routine he calls “The State of My Mind Address.”

Maron’s been doing standup for years, but these days his day job keeps him from working the club circuit he loves. “It’s hard,” he says. “I try to get out every weekend. It’s about keeping my standup chops honed.”

Though there are plenty of Jewish comics out there, Maron is one that freely mines his Jewish background as a source of humor. He even performs a one-man show titled “The Jerusalem Syndrome,” which he describes as the story of a “non-practicing Jew wanting to connect — though not necessarily with Judaism — then going to Israel and connecting in a way.”

Maron has performed in JCCs before and says it makes a difference when an audience is predominantly Jewish. “There’s some common understanding,” he says. “There’s a tribal element at work. I assume they will be more sophisticated, and they’ll always be more Jewy.”

This won’t be Maron’s first trek to the Bay Area. He lived in San Francisco’s Mission and Panhandle districts earlier in his career. But unlike most sensible people, he was not smitten by the charms of the region.

“I lived in the city for two years,” he says, “and had a hard time finding a Jewish community. I remember drinking a lot of coffee, smoking a lot of cigarettes and wondering what the hell is going on here.”

Maron is far from being the only left-leaning comedian out there (think Al Franken and Rosie O’Donnell). Which begs the question: Other than right-wing converts like Dennis Miller, why are there seemingly so few comedians on the right? Maron has a theory.

“If one is going to weigh politics out,” he says, “you have to engage with the possibilities of both sides and create debates within yourself until you get to something that resembles a joke. The right doesn’t engage in that; they don’t represent a multiplicity of ideologies. They say they do, but they really don’t. As far as a comedic dialogue, there’s not a lot there.”

Maron is quick to point out he doesn’t view himself as doctrinaire. He sees plenty to criticize on the left as well. “If I learned any one thing,” he notes, “in a lot of ways liberals are contemptible control freaks as much as the Republicans, only they happen to be ashamed of it. So they pretend they are not. Most of the time, the left eats itself.”

As far as the debate over the Middle East goes, Maron says he and Air America tend to avoid the subject. “We get flak for not talking about Israel,” he says. “It’s a Pandora’s box. In terms of my own feelings, I’m on the fence about what I feel is right and wrong about Israel.”

Today Maron divides his time between homes in New York and Los Angeles. He is married to a woman named Mishna Wolff, but — surprise, surprise — despite the name, she isn’t Jewish.

Even with his leftist politics and mixed marriage, Maron sees himself as firmly attached to the Jewish community, though perhaps not in a traditional sense. “I find myself being culturally pretty Jewish,” he says. “So it’s interesting being with someone who isn’t.”

Then he adds, tongue firmly planted in cheek: “As a Jew, I’m only anti-Semitic as much as I hate myself.”

Marc Maron performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. Tickets: $15.50-$31.00. Information: (415) 444-8000.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.